I’ve posted recently on the impact of global warming on Oklahoma’s recent extreme weather, which includes an unusually warm winter, a continued drought, wildfires and excessive high temperatures this summer.
Now it appears we can add the increase of West Nile virus cases to the list.
Both Oklahoma and Texas are reporting large numbers of West Nile cases this summer, part of a nationwide trend. Three people have died of the disease in the Oklahoma and more than 60 cases have been reported. More than a 1,000 cases have been reported nationwide.
The West Nile virus is transmitted through mosquitoes, which thrive in warm weather.
According to CNN, Dr. Lyle Peterson, a doctor with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attributes the record number of cases to the excessive heat this summer.
Petersen said that the reason for the high number of cases this year is unclear, but that unusually warm weather could have fostered favorable conditions for the disease's transfer to humans.
A scientific study published in 2009 has linked West Nile virus to global warming, noting: “If temperature and precipitation are influential in determining West Nile virus infection risk, such changes would likely increase the burden of this disease in coming decades.” The large number of West Nile cases this summer has apparently validated the study’s conclusions.
Gov. Mary Fallin and other state government officials didn’t bring up global warming as they urged Oklahomans to take precautions against the West Nile virus, but what they did say was urgent. According to a Fallin news release:
This disease has hit Oklahomans hard this year and unfortunately, those who seem to be most at risk are older citizens. If you know persons who might be at particular risk, such as parents or grandparents over age 50, please check with them to make certain they are taking precautions. In addition, anyone spending significant time outdoors must also make certain to use insect repellent and carry it with them for reapplication if necessary. Oklahomans are or will soon be gearing up for night-time outdoor activities like high school football games, athletic practices, lakeside camping, gardening and evening jogs. Farmers and those who work outside are particularly susceptible to the disease. Everyone in these circumstances must be sure to take proper precautions.
The day-to-day precautions are extremely important, but the larger story is the continued impact of global warming on our lives in Oklahoma and the fact our government officials and corporate media outlets here decline to either discuss the issue or fail to do so thoroughly and consistently.
Oklahoma’s own U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, as we know, has led a fight for several years questioning the validity of global-warming science. Most climatologists agree that carbon emissions created by fossil fuels are contributing to global warming, but Inhofe sees that basic fact as a “hoax” generated by a liberal conspiracy.
The evidence that global warming isn’t a hoax—from record numbers of West Nile cases to higher food prices caused by extended droughts to massive wildfires—are all around us these days. The immediate emergencies created by these events obscure the larger issue, but it’s not going away.
What also isn’t a hoax is the $511,250 Inhofe has received in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry since 2007, according to OpenSecrets.org.